Six Months in! Chuckling at my first impressions of Bethune
I’ve officially been in France for 6 months, but it feels like a lifetime since I first got to Bethune slightly dazed and with zero expectations.
I found a note on my phone about my first impressions of Bethune that I jotted down while waiting outside the train station; it’s way too embarrassing to share in its entirety, but it’s hilarious to read now and included that:
- “the ride out was all farms” and it kind of reminded me of Metro-North
- Bethune looked “pretty cute at first glance. There’s a little fountain…” (I had yet to see the magnificence that is our beffroi)
- “it’s warm” (to be fair, I’ve heard enough tales about the snow back home to stand firmly by this one)
- “I smell fry” (there’s a small friterie right next to the train station. I started to get hungry and wasn’t sure that they’d have anything vegetarian, so I went upto the man at the friterie and asked what he had in my very rusty French. He took pity on me and decided to practice his English with me. He was so kind and made me a “vegetarian burger” out of an egg and a circular mold and put it on a bun with some lettuce, my first Bethune meal. I said “ouai” at some point and he told me not to say that, to say “oui” instead, a lesson that I’m still working on undoing…)
- there was a comically “tin[y] little rotary” that buses were driving around and a “bike share” that I haven’t seen since.
I’m happy to say that I’m not bothered by being surrounded by farms; Bethune is in fact very cute; and the weather works for me (although I still missed snow around the holidays and learned that New England autumns are *not* at all overrated). I also hadn’t expected to love my work as much as I do, and I feel very fortunate to be working with so many great people.
How’s my French? My French probably improved mostly during my first couple of months here and then plateaued, although I still cringe when I open my mouth and hear a fresh American accent or reread texts and find all my errors. I definitely was not as proactive with learning the language as I was when I lived in India, and I also didn’t spend as much time imitating native speakers out of fear of offending them. I did try practicing when I was home, but didn’t do as much of that as I should have.
Environmental stuff: I continue to be inspired by all the ways in which daily life tends to be more environmentally friendly than back home. I had a conversation with one of my teachers about this when I first got here, and she told me that a lot of that has to do more with cost than anything else (ex: taking bags to the grocery store is cheaper than paying for one, driving smaller cars requires less gas, etc.). Maybe that’s true, but it’s nice to what’s possible while still maintaining a high standard of living. It’s been fun incorporating environmentalism into my lessons and also working on different projects with my Eco Club.
This has truly been the best six months of my life and I’m freaking out that it’s coming to an end. I’ve been trying to focus on all the good things that’ll be waiting for me when I come home (4am pizza, being trained by my little brother and having him cook me tofu, binge-watching all the TV that I’ve missed since being here, being able to work more…) but they just don’t seem enough at the moment. Gotta get in all the baguettes and quality cat time while I still can!